Political Inquiry

In a recent comment back and forth Matthew and I had, Matthew wrote (my emphasis):

The very impulse to have a federal-gov’t-level response to social issues such as education, health care, and more bespeaks his fundamental liberal/progressive disposition. Contrast this with the fundamental conservative/libertarian disposition, which would have those issues settled by civil society and the states, and laid bare for all to see is the lie of “radical middle”, “third way”, and the rest — because one cannot simultaneously be for and against federal-gov’t-level involvement.

It’s that last sentence I want to focus on (because he’s right Obama’s a liberal)–that one can not be both for and against federal government simultaneously.

I’m not saying I’m for sure convinced he’s wrong (I mean its sounds logical); nor am I sure though that this is correct.

In what follows, I’m just testing some ideas ought, playing a little devil’s advocate.  These are not final thoughts in any regard.  To be clear it’s certainly the case that political theorists tend to be one camp or the other (and the parties roughly separated accordingly).  But need this be the way it is?

I’ll use education since that is one of the issues Matthew raised.

Why couldn’t one simultaneously promote both market opening in education (a la this one from Cato)–charter schools, private school, vouchers, the whole nine yards–and promote policy like The 2% Solution which is still public education tax payer based, but is a massive improvement over what currently exists?

I choose the 2% because it is a radical middle program that is (as Matthew correctly) states still fed gov’t in many respects.

[Again in devil’s advocate voice]….If the fundamental principle of libertarianism is liberty and expanding options/choices, then combining the two would seem to expand the most options no?

What if some people want public education?  Hell even federally administered varieties.

I know that’s overly simplistic, but just to try to make a point and puncture some perceived CW thinking.

Now of course in such a system a taxpayer would pay taxes to the state/federal system and if they desire to send their children to private or charter schools, then that is their choice and they pay for it. I went to private school (Roman Catholic) for grade and high school (as did my sister), so my parents paid both.  I’m sure subsidies, off-sets, or reimbursements/vouchers could be worked out to find a balance there.

The other way perhaps to think of this is to say the philosophical notions be damned, big government is here to stay on these matters, and procedurally the only way a major opening of education to free market (which I’m not really opposed to btw done properly of course–again I went to private school so I have no liberal love affair with public school per se) would be through exactly the kind of grand bargain the combination of these two views could entail.

Liberals would only ever, if ever, go for such a move if the public system was buttressed and modernized along the 2% lines.

Or alternatively (though related) one could be in one’s head and heart a real libertarian and I think be pragmatic enough to sense that such a system is not anywhere on the horizon and in light of that reality, seek something like 2% as the least worst option as better than the alternative.

This latter view is sometimes what I hold on many of these issues.  I’m of at least 2 minds on the matter most days–some days of four or five.   Though I think in a coming age (structurally, demographically, and culturally) of bigger government–i.e. the complete failure of small government conservatism to either bring in small government or govern effectively–this latter view would make more sense. Though to the purists I can see how that would be viewed as white flag surrender monkey sellout posturing.

Also of course true that that second option assumes any even halfway intelligent system could be envisioned and executed by a gov’t bureaucracy, which is the very point at contention….

And then we are back to square one.

Though in the meantime the beast lumbers on ignorantly and destructively.

It is worth pointing out I think simply as a question to be raised–I’ve always wondered if the resistance to such ideas (like 2%) from the limited gov’t side, has something to do with the possibility that not in full, but at least in part, the cherished notion of government as the problem could be proved if not wrong, at least diminished?   Have its limits exposed simultaneous to the exposure of the limits of the radical middle type policies.  Just a thought.

Published in: on March 26, 2008 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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